What Is the Best Time to Weigh Yourself?
It’s ok, big guy. A lot of people think they need to change their weight. For a lot of us, losing a few pounds could prove healthy. For plenty of guys, packing on some muscle mass is the real goal. No matter your camp, you don’t need to feel downtrodden if you’re leaning towards a new weight goal. It can be a healthy, reliable way to make some positive changes in your life.
That said, you don’t want to go into this half-cocked. A lot of people try and fail to change their weight every year. It’s not an entirely easy thing to do, so you need a real plan. Part of that plan will involve weighing yourself. Most people think that they can step on a scale every once in a while, and it will be sufficient. If you’re serious about your goals, you need to do better. There is a proper procedure to use for weighing yourself, and without it, you’ll have a much harder time achieving your goal weight. This procedure starts by weighing yourself at the right time.
The Same Time Every Day
So, before we can even get into a certain reading on the clock, we have to establish the most important rule of weigh-ins. You have to be consistent. It is more important than anything else — by a pretty large margin.
Your first rule is to weigh yourself at the same time every day that you step on the scale. We’ll get into more specifics on optimal times in a minute, but hammering in the importance of consistency is the first step.
It’s a pretty simple premise. Your weight changes throughout the day. First thing in the morning, you haven’t eaten or drunk anything. You’ll weigh less than right after a big lunch. So, regardless of when you weigh yourself, you want to keep that time stable. More importantly, you want to keep the conditions as stable as possible. If you weigh yourself at 1:15 in the afternoon, and it happens to be right after lunch, you want every weigh-in to be right after lunch. It’s even better if you eat a consistent lunch. It doesn’t have to be literally the same meal every time, but if you eat comparable meals throughout the week, that’s good. It helps you with consistency. In fact, all of the tips you’re going to read are really just about consistency.
Do It Every Day
The old wisdom is that you shouldn’t weigh yourself every day. This stemmed primarily from weight-loss advice. The idea is that daily weigh-ins won’t reflect much change, and failing to see daily progress at the scales will be discouraging, so only weigh yourself once a week.
A bunch of research has proven this notion completely false. Let’s assume you’re trying to lose weight (and we know plenty of you reading this might want to be gaining weight instead). If you weigh yourself every day, you’re going to be more sensitive to those daily changes. If you’re up two pounds from yesterday (which is actually pretty normal), you’re going to be more self-conscious and make subtly different decisions. If daily weigh-ins cause you to cut an average of 100 calories a day, that adds up to about 2 pounds a month that you’ll lose because you had the courage to face your scale every day.
There’s a more important reason to weigh yourself daily. Your body weight will fluctuate a lot. Eating habits, drinking habits, and overall activity will not be identical every day. This leads to discrepancies of up to a few pounds each day of the week. That’s a normal thing, but here’s why it matters. If you weigh yourself once a week, you might catch the day you weigh the most or the least out of that week. It leads to a larger margin of error in your weight tracking, and you can’t make the best possible decisions if your data isn’t accurate.
So, if more data is good, shouldn’t you weigh yourself five times a day? Or more? It turns out that this will also increase your margin of error. An adult male’s body weight will fluctuate by five pounds or more in a given day. Instead of averaging all of those fluctuations (who wants to do math just to know how much they weigh?), it’s better to weigh yourself at a time when your weight is more stable, which brings us to the crux of the topic.
The Magic Time of Day
You want to weigh yourself first thing in the morning if you can. If you’re like most people, you’ll have to pee when you roll out of bed. Go ahead and do that. Then, step on the scale. A lot of guys sleep in boxers or minimal clothing. That’s good. You shouldn’t care how much your clothes weigh (which can be over 10 pounds in the winter, if you include footwear). You want to know how much your body weighs, so minimal clothing is ideal.
In fact, if you start your day with a shower, then this should be the routine. Get out of bed. Empty your bladder. Get naked. Weigh yourself. Write it down (this one is really important), and then hop in the shower. Coffee, breakfast, and anything else can come after that.
Let’s understand why this is the ideal situation. You might be thinking that this will give the lowest possible number for your weight. That’s true, and it’s a good thing. After a full night of sleep, you haven’t had anything to eat or drink in a while. You also haven’t been particularly active (unless you’re a sleep dancer, but that’s a whole different conversation). This means that your weight isn’t under the influence of the biggest variables that will come up throughout the day. Even though you’re getting your lowest weight for the day, you’ll find that it’s a lot more consistent throughout the week. Considering the number on your scale can change by many pounds between sunrise and sunset, getting the most stable number is important.
The point of consistency is that it makes it easier to see trends. If your weight goes up throughout the week, then you have a calorie-positive diet. You really are gaining weight. Likewise, if your number is consistently lower, then you really are losing weight. This will also show you that when you have a stable lifestyle, weight changes are slow. You won’t just steadily gain or lose weight every day. Instead, you’ll bounce up and down by a few pounds and, over time, head towards a goal weight. That’s healthy, so be happy about it.
Morning Is Even Better for Weight Loss
First thing in the morning is the best time to weigh yourself regardless, but for those of you trying to shed pounds, there’s a bonus. Remember how the old wisdom was to weigh yourself less often to get a psychological boost? Well, you can get this from a daily, morning weigh-in. Since you’re checking your minimum weight, your efforts at weight loss will start off closer to your goal. Depending on when you step on the scale, you might be as much as 10 pounds lighter than you thought you were (seriously, clothes weigh more than you think). You’re making progress just by picking a strategic time of day. It makes the goals feel more attainable, and that can help you make a real commitment and see those long-term results.
More Weighing Tips
We’ve covered some of the most important concepts for tracking your weight, but there are a few more key tips that will help you with consistency and getting accurate results. The first tip is to try to wear the same thing every time you step on the scale. Being naked is ideal, but it doesn't fit into everyone’s schedule. That’s ok. One of the advantages of weighing yourself in the morning is that you can sleep in the same thing all the time. Well, not literally. You should wash your sleeping clothes too. But you don’t have to vary your nighttime style. If you sleep in just boxers, it’s easy to do that every night. If you like full-on pajama outfits, that’s fine. Wear them every time you step on the scale, and you’ll get consistent results.
Much more important is that you need a good scale. It’s annoying, but super cheap scales can be inconsistent. If they don’t use a strong enough material for the springs, or if they’re not designed very well, the springs can degrade pretty quickly. That means your margin of error is changing, even though you’re using the same scale every day. But, if you get something solid with a verifiable reputation, then you can trust it to at least be consistent with itself. That’s all you really need. It’s ok if the scale is inaccurate by a few pounds, as long as it’s inaccurate by the same amount every time. You’re tracking trends, remember?
That brings us to the final point of consistency. Use the same scale every time. Unless you’re paying for some obscenely expensive, laser-guided scale, that you scientifically calibrate every day, you’re going to see some inaccuracies in your weight number. That doesn’t really matter. Even though you might have a goal weight in mind, the better plan is to have a weight trend in mind. You know if you need to lose or gain a little weight for your health. Your bathroom scale is there to keep you on track. Fussing over a final number isn’t the smart way to manage your weight. Also, your typical bathroom scale will only be off by a couple of pounds.
Here’s the big but. If your scale is two pounds light, and you step on a scale at the gym that is two pounds heavy, you’re suddenly getting a swing of four pounds. After all of the work you did to be consistent in your measurements, you’re getting some seriously bad information, just because you used a different scale one time. You took the time to get a decent scale. Now you have to trust it.
Use the Data Wisely
Now that you have the knowledge and skills to weigh yourself properly, you need to know what to do with that information. You probably have ideas, but a lot of people misunderstand the true secret to controlling their weight. It’s all about little and subtle changes.
Think back on why you’re weighing yourself every day. Cutting a single snack or sweetened beverage every time you think the number on the scale is too high will lead to long-term weight loss. Obviously, you can be more disciplined and regimented than that for faster results, but the little adjustments really do add up over time. What’s better is that this is a habit-building approach to managing your weight. You’ll consistently cut that snack, and before you know it, you've made a small lifestyle adjustment that is good for your weight.
This works in both directions. If you’re trying to pack on some muscle, seeing your frustratingly low number might convince you to trade a tasty snack for a body-building choice. Some of the protein shakes and muscle-building food choices aren’t all that tasty. A little extra motivation in the morning can go a long way. If you’re sticking to the right workouts, that one eating decision that you change every day will help you pack on more muscle. It’s the habitual changes that count the most.
Well, that was pretty thorough. You know how to weigh yourself. We’ve given you the tools to use this knowledge to get to your weight goals. That’s enough to get you off to a good start. If you pair your weigh-in procedure with a good workout regimen and some healthy eating, you’ll get where you want to go. Until then, try not to stress so much. The small gains will turn into big gains, as long as you stick with it.